Welsh Narrow Gauge Steam 2023

Welsh Narrow Gauge Steam 2023

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales

This year, Bob Branch now wants to organise his really very last trip to Wales. This time that could really be true, because the costs for such a extensive event are going through the roof. Compared to the last years, there are again some changes and other railways as well as new locomotives in the program.

Wales, an especially in November, can be very wet and windy. But when sunny moments appear and the countryside will bath in a golden light with low sunrays out of a layer of dark clouds it is all worth to spend the day at the lineside. If luck co-operates, a rainbow will frame the whole scenery. Together with the huge variety of authentic train compositions and technically interesting locomotives it’s worth the effort to come to Wales in November 2023!

During the tourist season there is almost no space for running photo charters; and many nice photo spots are out of reach. Only when the regular service stops you have the time you need – and full access to the rolling stock. Hence we’ll return again in November.

The two weeks tour featuring several of the most scenic Welsh narrow gauge railways and a host of authentic locos and rolling stock combinations spread across twelve days of action-packed entertainment, mostly located within an area designated to be a Unesco World Heritage Site. We will again be having six days all together on the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways using a combination of locomotives which are totally authentic and very much appropriate to the lines on which they are operating. We will also be paying an extended visit to the Vale of Rheidol Railway where there is great potential given the right weather conditions and we will have at least two engines per day. Again we’ve included the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway in our plans. On the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland lines we will have at least two engines in steam each day including at least one day with all available Double Fairlies in action. On the WHR we can again use “Russell”. This year we also added the Talyllyn Railway and the Llanberis Lake Railway.

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales



The itinerary is, at the moment, only a letter of intent. The detailed plan will be sent to the participants a few days before the event starts.




Flight to Manchester, arriving at 12 noon and transfer by charter bus to Llanfair Caereinion. Charter train on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway to Welshpool and return. Hotel in or near Welshpool.


Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway: 822 "The Earl" with a GWR typical mixed train. Late afternoon transfer to a hotel in Aberystwyth.


The next two days will be spent on the Vale of Rheidol Railway (VOR), using all three GWR locomotives. For the first time, one of the engines will be in British Railways livery with authentic (red/cream) painted passenger coaches. On one of the two days we will also run a goods train.


Another day will be spent on the VOR. Overnight in Aberystwyth.


After an early breakfast in Aberystwyth, we’ll continue by charter bus to the Ffestiniog Railway. The FR has many operational locomotives. On the first two days we will, beside others, use some of the slate quarry locomotives. Hotel in Porthmadog


We will spend another day on the Ffestiniog Railway with different train compositions and different locomotives. Hotel in Porthmadog


On the Welsh Highland Railway we’ll also find many interesting locomotives at our disposal. We plan to use two Baldwin locomotives (590 and 608), the newly inspected NG15 and again "Russell". Hotel in Porthmadog


We will have another day for the numerous photo opportunities on the Welsh Highland Railway.


For the following two days on the Ffestiniog Railway we will focus on the Double-Fairlies and the "Welsh Pony" locomotives. There are again numerous, different train compositions with passenger and goods wagons. Hotel in Porthmadog


Once again we are travelling with Double-Fairlies on the Ffestiniog Railway. Hotel in Porthmadog


After breakfast in Porthmadog we take a charter bus to Tywyn, where the Talyllyn Railway has its starting point. We travel behind "Dogolch" with an authentic train of the early 1950s as well as another train, also hauled by steam steam. In the evening we will return to Porthmadog.


After breakfast we will drive to the Llanberis Lake Railway where we will use locomotives from the former Dinorwic & Penrhyn slate quarry with slate wagons on the 4km line along Llyn Padarn Lake. There are a lot of locomotives and wagons there, so we will go there for a second day. Hotel in Porthmadog


Again we will start after breakfast from Porthmadog to the Llanberis Lake Railway to run more train compositions there. In the late afternoon we will drive back to Manchester airport, where our journey ends. For at least some of us, there will probably be no flight home when we arrive in Manchester, so if you wish we will book you an airport hotel (at extra cost).


Individual taxi ride to the airport and return flight home. Arrival on the same day


Line description

Narrow gauge steam trains for photographers in Wales

The Welsh narrow gauge lines are a marvel that traverses so many different landscapes it's almost impossible to give an accurate line descriptions. From the sea at Porthmadog to the Mountains of Snowdonia, my advice -just enjoy it all. The lines are all well covered on the internet. There will be a brief historical overview in the tour brochure. The pictures give you an idea about the railways.

Railways for slate transport

The slate landscape of North West Wales has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List becoming the fourth UNESCO site in Wales. It was announced in July 2021 that the Welsh slate-mining areas comprising six sites had been added to the list of world heritage sites. These include the quarry landscapes found at Dinorwic, Penrhyn, and Ffestiniog, and also includes the Ffestiniog and Talyllyn Railways. The FR was opened in 1836 to facilitate better transportation of slate from the quarries to the harbour at Porthmadog for loading and onward distribution by ship, initially relying on a mix of horse-drawn power and gravity before steam motive power was introduced in the 1860s. Blaenau Ffestiniog had become the biggest town in the slate quarrying areas by the mid-1870s, with many tunnels and levels constructed plus hundreds of underground chambers. These and other areas which were once so vibrant in supplying slate to all parts of the world have now been fully recognised for their heritage and historical value.

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales


There are some other factors that may give us one or two additional attractions. On the Ffestiniog, Linda is currently receiving a full ten-year overhaul at Boston Lodge Works and should it appear by November 2022, we will do our very best to include it on our Ffestiniog Railway days. The years 2022 and 2023 also feature Centenary Celebrations for the Welsh Highland Railway. Should any additional locomotives be visiting and stay on beyond the planned special events we will again do our best to try and include them in our charters. And, of course, this could be Bob’s final charter before retirement. After a few very brief histories for those who are unfamiliar with the railways we are set to visit.

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales

Environmental conditions

When the weather is dry, the pictures are spectacular and it is this which keeps us returning year after year to capture the magic of the country’s scenery and trains. However, what keeps it so green and lush is the regular rainfall levels and you can expect at least some damp periods when the weather is not ideal. Therefore we recommend that you wear some warm clothing, possibly waterproof, and also the wearing of sturdy footwear, again preferably with some element of waterproofing, to be on the safe side. The terrain under foot can on occasion be rough, rocky and slippery – though you are not going to be climbing mountains necessarily. You will be better prepared for an enjoyable charter experience if you are wearing the appropriate clothing; if it proves to be warmer and/or drier than you expect, you can always take a couple of layers of clothing off, but if you are wearing too little or the wrong type of clothing, there may not be a nearby outdoor shop on hand. Most passenger coaches we’re using do not have a heating system.

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales


Small Print

The tour is arranged by Bob Branch and David Williams in conjunction with Paul Lewin, the GM of the F&WHR, who together have over 20 year’s experience in organising photo charters on the F&WHR. Between them there is very little else to add to the expansive itinerary as planned.

The itinerary might need some adjustment. Locomotives are not guaranteed, they can fail, especially after a long summer season (which we all hope is on). But the number of available locomotives is so good that we’ll have for sure a good variety of different classes any types.

On most days we will not be stopping for a lunch break, please bring water and or other non-alcoholic liquids with you, and suitable energy bars or snacks.

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales

Although we hope for the better, Wales can be very wet and cold in the first week of November. Please wear appropriate cloths (see above). Please remember that at this time of the year the sun, if any, will take quite a while to come over the Snowdon range of mountains.

In regards to operating on the WHR we have to cross the standard gauge line, which is controlled by Network Rail, at possibly set times during the morning and afternoon either side of service trains to and from Phwelli. This may restrict our time, however in past years this has not been an issue.

There are two ways you can participate: Option A: you book the trains only and arrange everything else on your own or you book option B: the full package including airport pick-up, transfers, hotels and breakfast.

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales

The tour is arranged any guided by Bob Branch and David Williams, so please do not expect the usual FarRail standard of the tour. Announcements will be very sparse; we’ll often spend much time at the same position and do some variations of the position and we will do it the relaxed way. However, if the weather cooperates you’ll get some magnificent pictures.

Safety is a major issue in UK; the safety rules are as strict as they’re used to be in developed countries. Jumping on and off trains is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated. On the several railways they will lock us in when travelling and open doors only when the train stops. Windows can be opened, however. You always need to follow the instructions of the railway staff and we may need to sign a waiver. Standing too close to the track is not advisable, especially in regards to the very tight clearances on all visited railways. We’re not allowed to do any sort of “gardening”, as after all the WHR in particular runs through the Snowdon National Park and they would take an extremely dim view of tree pruning.

Always use common sense when crossing roads and railway tracks. Neither FarRail Tours nor the local providers can be held responsible and will not accept any liability whatsoever in the case of any accident or damage or issues, additional costs etc. caused by delays or changes in the timetables. We recommend you to take out an accident insurance and travel cancellation insurance.

Schmalspur-Dampf in Wales



Option A:

Welsh Narrow gauge Explorer 31.10. – 12.11.2023: £ 1,600

Option B:

United Kingdom
Wales Narow Gauge extravaganza 9 to 30 participants £3,985
31.10.2023 – 13.11.2023 Single room surcharge £570
Registration Deadline: 01.09.2023
Railways only: 1,600 GBP

The price includes

Option A:

Option B:

Not included are:

Narrow gauge steam trains for photographers in Wales


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